D&H makes case for being good neighbor with warehouse at Jednota property
By Laura Hayes
People voiced their support and aired concerns about a proposed D&H Distributing distribution hub on 276 acres of the Jednota property during a …
D&H makes case for being good neighbor with warehouse at Jednota property
People voiced their support and aired concerns about a proposed D&H Distributing distribution hub on 276 acres of the Jednota property during a meeting at the Lower Swatara firehouse on Nov. 1.
“We know the impact; we’re not naive,” said D&H Co-President Dan Schwab. “We’re not trying to dress this up. We’re being very upfront and direct and transparent to say, ‘We’d like to do this, but we want to do it in the very best possible way we can.’”
The 300-acre site known as the Jednota property is owned by the First Catholic Slovak Union, a fraternal insurance company based in Ohio. D&H plans to purchase 275.87 acres, and the union intends to retain 21.39 acres to the west of the Airport Connector Road and their memorial along Rosedale Avenue.
D&H Distributing is a technology distributor based in Harrisburg, and Schwab said they had more than $4 billion in revenue in 2018. Schwab said they sell products such as computers and Xboxes to college bookstores and retailers such as Walmart.
D&H’s Mid-Atlantic distribution hub is located on Katie Court in Harrisburg, and Schwab said the current facility is stretched beyond its limits.
The Harrisburg hub, which has 203 employees during peak season, would be consolidated into a new hub in Lower Swatara Township. Schwab said they planned to add 150 additional jobs over five years.
“We don’t want to leave Dauphin County. We don’t want to move down toward Allentown or down toward Carlisle, but that’s our next option because we’ve not been able to find enough land for the facility that we need to build,” Schwab said.
D&H hopes to be at their new site for at least 25 years. Their purchase of the property is contingent on rezoning a majority of the land to industrial park, according to Schwab.
D&H submitted a zoning amendment application to the township. The application is on the agenda for the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners’ meeting for Nov. 7. According to township Planning and Zoning Coordinator Ann Hursh, the board could forward it to the township planning commission, who would review it at their Nov. 15 meeting.
D&H plans to build two distribution facilities.
One would be west of the Airport Connector Road and north of Rosedale Avenue would be approximately 655,200 square feet, and the second south of Rosedale Avenue.
D&H Director of Sales Operations Jason Wilhelm said in an email that the second building would be completed several months after the first.
Wilhelm said they plan to demolish the former printery located north of Rosedale.
“It is not possible to maintain this older building while accommodating the proposed D&H building to the north of Rosedale Avenue,” Wilhelm said.
The size of the second facility depends on whether D&H can get a long-term tenant in an office building, occupied by American Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, PSA Airlines and Oneworld airline alliance, and Conduent, a business process services company.
D&H’s attorney Charles Courtney said they have a short-term lease, and D&H might decide to keep the office building if they can find a long-term tenant. Wilhelm said a long-term office lease is at lease five years but usually 10.
If the office building stays, D&H may lease the second warehouse, which is about 400,000-square feet and to the south of the office building, to a third party until they need it. However, if the office building is demolished, a larger warehouse, about 551,000 square feet, might be built.
Wilhelm said they plan to construct the second building sooner rather than later so that they can use income from the lease for the site acquisition and development expenses.
“What this plan does for D&H is it provides all of the flexibility in the world to make a long-term commitment to this site,” Courtney said.
Courtney said they estimate the project could add $2.2 million in additional tax revenue, and $1.1 million in business for local restaurants, gas stations and hotels.
D&H isn’t planning on rezoning the entire 276 acres. About 18 acres to the north of Rosedale and east of Stoner Drive and 73 acres north of the turnpike would remain zoned residential urban, and part of the land south of Rosedale and east of White House Lane would remain zoned office park, according to Courtney.
Wilhelm said over time, D&H would like to find a residential developer for the 73 acres north of the turnpike.
“This is probably the last pristine, beautiful part of Lower Swatara that we have left. … We’re becoming a warehouse community. They’re all over the place,” said attendee Lynda Bosnyak.
Other attendees disagreed. Scott Cooper said the land could be developed under the current zoning. He said it would be worse if D&H moved to a different county, resulting in lost jobs and tax revenue, and instead a large chain store or company would buy the land.
Scott said he would rather have a local company.
Schwab said they are not maximizing the developmental potential of the site and instead positioning the property so there is a buffer along Rosedale.
Stormwater, truck traffic
Courtney said they knew there were several issues they had to address, including managing stormwater and flooding, particularly in the Lisa Lake area, and truck traffic.
D&H’s traffic engineer Craig Mellott, of Traffic Planning and Design, said the company chose to do a traffic impact study.
According to Schwab, a majority of the trucks come between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. About 35 trucks come in and out of the hub every day, although he noted that it increases to 42 during the peak season. While the hub operates 24 hours a day, Schwab said the night shift’s duty is mostly to get products ready for the next day.
According to Courtney, the 655,200-square-foot building would be accessed through Rosedale. Mellott said the truck drivers would go eastbound on Rosedale toward the intersection of Meade Avenue/University Drive and Rosedale and turn on Route 230. A majority of the drivers would use the Airport Connector to head to Route 283, although some may stay on Route 230.
D&H is proposing to have trucks not go west on Rosedale Avenue, Mellott said. He said they intend to have signs along the side of the road and overhead prohibiting trucks from west of the facility and along White House Lane. However, if a truck does drive west on Rosedale, Mellott said they proposed to have an area — similar to a cul-de-sac — where trucks can turn around.
Additionally, Mellott said D&H suggests the township adopt a law or ordinance prohibiting trucks on these roads.
D&H is also interested in improving the roads. Mellott said the traffic study recommended widening and reconstructing Rosedale Avenue along the front of the building and adding turn lanes. He also suggested widening Rosedale from the Airport Connector Road overpass to the Meade Avenue intersection, which would also be reconstructed.
In the future and depending on traffic after the hub is built, traffic lights may be desired at the intersection of Rosedale and Meade avenues and the Airport Connector Road and Route 230.
Courtney said the company would pay for the improvements.
Some residents expressed concern about truck traffic and the safety of children getting on and off the bus. Jill Linta, Democratic candidate for the state House District 106, said she talked to residents who live near hubs, such as FedEx on Fulling Mill Road.
“They’re afraid to get their mail from their mailbox because the trucks are zooming past. There’s too much traffic. It’s not safe,” Linta said.
“Company I want in the township”
Several attendees voiced their support of the project.
Joe Trojcak, who owns Progressive Enterprises Sound Studios in Elizabethtown, said he went to school at the Jednota Home and Immaculate Conception School on the Jednota property, which closed in 1969. He said he smiled when he heard D&H wanted to buy the land. It’s been sad to see the land fade, he said.
“What I’ve seen today and just knowing of your company, I’m feeling like this is a good direction to go,” he said.
Kacey Crown recalled how D&H supported one of her friends while she battled cancer.
“D&H being in existence in our county for decades and decades — to me, that’s a neighbor I want in the township. That’s a company I want in the township,” Crown said.
Some employees attended the meeting, including business development manager Chris Rigas.
“When I came back from Iraq, my disabilities led me to believe I was never going to be able to work again,” he said.
The person who hired him worked with him and coached him, and Rigas said D&H stood beside him when his health degraded.
“Is there really going to be a better company that can come in to your area and benefit your community? Because with my personal experiences, I’m not going to work anywhere else, and I wouldn’t want to,” Rigas said.